“We can argue about the features, about the details, but in general we are looking in one direction and are united in the fundamental issues”

The Chairman of the Council of Judges of Russia Yuri Sidorenko spoke about the most important stages of the development of the judicial system of the country, about the history of the Council of Judges of the Russian Federation, the current problems of the judicial community and the tasks to be solved in the coming years.

 

- Dear Yuri Ivanovich! Celebrating anniversaries never goes without memories. Therefore, we would like to ask you to remember how it all began? How did it develop? What lessons of the past have been particularly helpful? What qualitative changes has the judicial system undergone thanks to the Council of Judges of Russia? 

 

- The main achievements of the Council of Judges, with which we have every right to be proud, are the preparation of laws “On the status of judges in the Russian Federation”, “On the judicial system of the Russian Federation” and “On the Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation”.

 

- Let's take it in order.

 

- The development of the law “On the status of judges in the Russian Federation” began precisely on our initiative. It happened at the first meeting of the Council of Judges - we elected the Presidium of the Council and immediately instructed it to start preparing the text of the draft law “On the Status of Judges in the Russian Federation”.

 

- The first meeting was very emotional, very noisy, what is not surprising. The position of the judicial system in the early 1990s was critical. The judges have resigned by hundreds, nobody practically did want to occupy judicial posts - the salary was low, the work was hard, the workloads were overwhelming, the terrible working conditions, dilapidated buildings, the absence of even the most necessary for work.

 

- Therefore, at the first meeting of the Council, people tore shirts on their chests, shouted, resented, scolded the Ministry of Justice - in general, they shared painful things. As a result, everyone unanimously agreed that the law on the status of judges was urgently needed.

 

- Soon the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the Administration of the President of the Russian Federation joined the developers of the draft law, and then, in the order of legislative initiative, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation and the President of the Russian Federation jointly submitted it to the State Duma. The case is unique. I personally do not remember that ever again all three branches of the government submitted the draft law to the parliament. And the speed of preparation of the bill is also unique - its first lines were written in March, and in June the law was already passed. It took three months to create the most important law both for the judicial system and for the whole country. This has never happened before or after that only three months have passed since the beginning of work on the draft law until the signature of the law by the President.

                                                                                                                 

- Did you take the law “On the status of judges in the USSR” as a basis?

 

- No, we have prepared a completely new bill. The law “On the status of judges in the USSR” of 1989 was good and progressive for its time, it was for the first time that the notion of judicial status appeared. But that law did not yet secure guarantees of the independence of judges and many other important provisions, some of which later even entered into the Constitution.

 

- So we went further. The federal legislator took the first step, and we continued.

 

- But the law of 1989 is historically important in that it gave impetus for the self-organization of judges into the community, and therefore for the creation of the Council of Judges of Russia. The fact is that this law provided for the holding of annual conferences of judges. True, the range of issues that should be discussed at these conferences was very narrow. The law prescribed to discuss issues of judicial practice and conduct the election of qualification boards. But, as they say, the main thing is to get together, and there will be topics for discussion. And the judges, of course, immediately went beyond the scope of the questions prescribed by law and began to discuss all the existing problems, all that which at that moment most excited and worried them. And what were these questions? Yes, all the same - low wages, staff turnover, high overload, degrading working conditions.

 

- Annual conferences have become a prototype of the future Council of Judges, which was created three years later. Although the judges then did not have any experience of self-government. Moreover, their possibilities were severely limited. The activities of judges are strictly predetermined by law, they operate in a narrow corridor of opportunities and cannot afford to jump out of it. 

 

“This may seem like a paradox: judges are people of the state, and the judiciary corporation is not a public organization, but judges were the first to create a self-government body. Lawyers, for example, managed to agree and create their own public organization only 10 years after that.

 

- Big trouble is needed in order to unite? Do you think that if the judicial system were not in such a deplorable state then, would the judges be able to organize themselves?

 

- It is possible that there would be no need for self-organization and the creation of the Council. When all is well, then why change something? And trouble, indeed, is pushing for change, for development, and in the history of mankind there are many examples of this. 

 

- The law "On the judicial system of the Russian Federation" was also adopted not from a good life?

 

- In a sense, yes. It was received at a very alarming time both for the judicial system and for the whole Russia. Then we were literally one step away from breaking the single judicial system into many regional ones. 

 

- You remember, 1994 - 1996 is the peak of the “parade of sovereignties”. The main slogan of those years - take as much power as you can carry. And everyone took the maximum power in their region and attempted, including the judicial power. Some leaders of the subjects of the Russian Federation said: “What kind of sovereignty is without a court? The court is a necessary attribute of statehood. And at the level of our region, all branches of government should be represented - executive, legislative, and judicial. ”

 

- As an argument, they referred to the weakness of the central federal government, to the fact that it has no money. They said: “Now the courts are in poverty, the central government is not able to provide them with normal conditions, and we will build the palaces of justice and properly finance the judicial activities.”

 

- But the most striking thing is not that the heads of the subjects of the Russian Federation wanted to tear the judicial system apart and each get their share. The most striking thing is that they were supported in this by both the Government of Russia and the Presidential Administration. They wanted to leave only three federal courts - the Constitutional, the Supreme and the Supreme Arbitration Court, and to make all the other courts local. They referred to the United States, where their is a mixed judicial system, and have already prepared the appropriate changes to the codes. By the way, in some Caucasian republics, laws on the status of judges have already been passed, which reduced both the level of independence of judges and other basic judicial guarantees. In essence, judges were turned into clerks. And it would have happened without the efforts of the judicial community. The most important thing that we managed to do was to fix it in the law, that the judicial system of the Russian Federation consists of the federal courts.

 

- Literally at the last moment, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Lebedev managed to convince our opponents that it was necessary to adopt the law “On the Judicial System of the Russian Federation”, and it was in the version that we proposed. 

 

- And we had to convince each governor individually, including entering into an argument with such seemingly invincible heavyweights as Luzhkov, Shaimiev, Rakhimov. Vyacheslav Mikhailovich personally met with every senator. With every!

 

- But we must pay tribute to the senators. However, we failed to convince the leaders of the Caucasian republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, but all others could rise above their ambitions, their sovereignties: they realized that the loss of unity of the judicial system threatens the Russian statehood and is fraught with the collapse of the country. They understood that the judiciary is one of the brackets holding the integrity of the state.

 

- The Federation Council was then formed on a completely different principle - its members were governors and heads of representative bodies of the constituent entities of the Russian Federation. They decided to vote by polling, because it was almost impossible to collect the quorum necessary for adopting a constitutional law. On the eve of voting in the Federation Council, they searched all night for senators, sent out questionnaires, and only by morning did they get the necessary number of votes, plus four votes, just in case. On December 31, they called Vyacheslav Mikhailovich and invited him to announce the results of the voting.

 

- But what is interesting! When the own courts – the magistrates appeared in the regions of the Federation, the leaders of the regions began to oppose this together, saying that there was no money.

 

- Was the Law “On the Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation” also born in battles? And also on the background of some trouble?

 

- Absolutely. The disadvantage was that the Ministry of Justice, which controlled the finances of the judiciary, had neither the interest nor the ability to defend the interests of the judicial system. The Ministry of Justice was part of another branch of state power, and, accordingly, was guided by its interests. But, at the same time, he did not want to share his powers. And, to put it mildly, without enthusiasm, he took the initiative of the Council of Judges to create his judicial department, which will influence the formation of the budget of the judicial system and control this budget.

 

- Try now to take away any functions from the ministry. Moreover, the ability to dispose of financial assets. Not sure it's going to happen.

 

- That is, if then you did not create a Judicial Department ...

 

- I think now we would not be able to escape from the close embrace of the Ministry of Justice. And then we did it. We developed a draft law “On the Judicial Department at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation”, passed it to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation, which supported us and submitted the bill to the State Duma.

 

- The fight around the bill was fierce, but we won. And the judiciary was finally, as required by the principle of separation of powers, separated from the executive. That is why the creation of the Judicial Department is a huge step forward in the development of the judicial system.

 

- Let's return to your first conquest - the law “On the status of judges in the Russian Federation”. Over the past 15 years, the judicial status has undergone any changes? 

 

- Unfortunately, he has changed, and not for the better. Since 1992, when the law was passed, judicial status was constantly under attack. In order to supposedly improve, but in fact it turned out the opposite.

 

- And what damage was done to the status of judges? Have the main guarantees of refereeing been affected?

 

- In fact of the matter! The foundations of the foundations of the administration of justice, namely, guarantees of the independence of judges, which are enshrined not only in the law on the status of judges, but also in the Constitution and in generally accepted international acts are the subject of erosion. Such trends have especially intensified in the last 10 years. Until 2001, it was possible to repel the attacks on independence, but after 2003, step by step, they moved towards infringing judicial independence. Moreover, the slogans sound correct, everyone says that we need an independent court, but in practice they are trying to curtail independence. Now another initiative has been announced: they say that it is necessary to improve the mechanisms of judicial disciplinary responsibility.

 

- Are you still opposed to expanding the range of disciplinary sanctions?

 

- Yes. I think what is enshrined in the law is enough. There are bodies that deal with cases of disciplinary misconduct of judges, there is enough accumulated and justified experience in making decisions on bringing judges to justice. Warning and deprivation of authority is quite enough. Reprimand, salary reduction - why all this?

 

“But the most important thing is that during the discussion of these issues, the accusations are always a refrain:“ The judges do not obey anyone! ”

 

- Is this a reproach? Rather, a high appreciation by the judges of their duty and status.

 

- It all depends on intonation. We often have this phrase pronounced with indignation. In the sense of: “How so? Who allowed such lack of control? ”

 

- If we carefully analyze what is pronounced today, including from the highest tribunes and what the public is boiling about, we will see a paradoxical picture. It turns out that we have two misfortunes: on the one hand, the judges are too dependent, and on the other hand, the judges are uncontrollable and unaccountable. Moreover, the same people often say the both. Let us, nevertheless, decide - do we need an independent or controlled judge? There is no third here. And there can be no intermediate state, no “half dependence” or “non-dependence”. 

 

- Probably, before starting a discussion about this, you need to agree on terms. Because in our country independence is often misunderstood, namely as the lack of responsibility for misconduct.

 

- Every year from 50 to 100 judges are not only brought to disciplinary responsibility, but also lose their powers. It seems to me that these figures very eloquently indicate that judges are strictly responsible for actions incompatible with the title of judge. Is it not enough? This is too much. Now it is much easier to dismiss a judge from office than in Soviet times. Then the voters could recall the judge, and this was a very complicated procedure and it was practically not applied. Five to six cases for the entire Soviet Union, and even then not every year. And now - from 50 to 100. Is there a difference?

 

- And the problem here is not in the number of sanctions and not in which bodies will decide the fate of the judge - qualification boards or disciplinary presences. The problem is that unfit people often get to judicial posts, and the selection system is such that there is no opportunity to select the best.

 

- And what is the reason? In the imperfection of competitive procedures?

 

- There are several reasons. The main reason consists in the absence of a sufficient number of applicants for the post of judge and in the low professional training of those who participate in competitions. In order to choose the best, most professional, you must have candidates from whom to choose. Of ten applicants for the post of judge, eight people cannot even pass the qualifying exam! What does this mean? That high professionals, in which the judicial system is very interested, prefer another kind of activity. This means that the incentives for coming to court work, mildly speaking, are not weighty enough. Work is difficult, dangerous, and the material level at the same time decreases steadily. But the most important thing is the lack of respect for the court.

 

- Is this the most important?

 

- Of course. The prestige of the profession is the basis of its attractiveness. Not money, not security, but the opportunity to be proud of the business that you are entrusted with, and the realization that your work is not only in demand, but also appreciated by society. And we have everything exactly the opposite. The pressure on the court is increasing every year, plus a real persecution of the court by the expert community and, above all, lawyers, is launched. There is so much mud that it boggles the mind. Who wants to go to such a job?

 

- In Soviet times, we lived a poor life, and there were enough difficulties, but there was respect, and for this we accepted any difficulties.

 

- And what to do?

 

- This is the same difficult question as “What to do with rudeness?” or “What to do with legal nihilism?” I think it is necessary to educate people from childhood to inculcate respect for the law and the court. In the so-called civilized countries, which with good reason call themselves legal states, this goes without saying.

 

- I give a fresh example. On my desk there is a report of the American Bar Association. Like us, it includes scientists, politicians, judges, corporate lawyers, lawyers. And this is what they write: “The courts of our country are in crisis. The inability of state legislatures to provide adequate funding conditions sometimes literally closes the doors of our judicial system. Congress is reducing its support to federal courts. As a result, last year, the courts of each state were forced to freeze budgets and reduce the salaries of judges and their vacations, dismiss part of the staff, facilitate the early retirement of judges, increase court fees, and even close the courts. ” Assessment of the Bar Association - "catastrophic situation."

 

- This is written by lawyers! This is their cry in support of the court addressed to the congressmen: “Come to your senses!” 

 

- A few years ago we were in the United States, just at a meeting of one of the sections of the Bar Association. There, the lawyers discussed how they would lobby for the law to increase the salaries of judges. In fact, they distributed their lobbying duties: “I will talk to the senator so-and-so, and you should meet with the senator so-and-so ...” After the meeting, I asked them: “Why do you need this? Why are you so baked about judges? ”I must say, they were surprised by my question. They answered something like this: “But what about? We are most interested in seeing go to judges the most competent, the most professional, and the best. ”

 

- And our lawyers are making titanic efforts in order to discredit the judicial system, set up the society against it. They do not understand that they are cutting the branch on which they sit. Who needs them without a trial?

 

- The legal culture of society is different. And a completely different understanding of their professional and civic responsibility. There is no understanding that humiliated and harassed court is dangerous for society.

 

- So after all, what to do? We know that this problem is constantly being discussed in the Council of Judges.

 

- It is discussed. But we alone are powerless to change the situation. In order to restore the prestige of the profession of a judge, first of all the state must be interested. And civil society. And if from the very top we constantly hear shouting to all the judges, if the judicial community is constantly accused of having turned into a reinforced concrete corporation, what should we expect from ordinary citizens?

 

- And praising yourself is not a very good job and it’s also useless.

 

- I think that the formation of a legal culture and culture in a broad sense is not the business of the Council of Judges and not the business of judges. Judges must consider cases. That is what we are doing. Despite the constant underfunding, the pressure, the exorbitant service load, namely, 20 million cases per year, the judicial system works. Smooth and clear. And in this sense - yes, it is reinforced concrete. And steady. In the 90s, when many state institutions almost collapsed - the army and the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the court held out. And, moreover, he was the most democratic authority. Even in Soviet times, the courts strictly observed the principles of openness, publicity, election and independence from the authorities. Democratic principles have always been characteristic of the judicial system.

 

“But I will never agree that the judicial system is isolated from society, that it is a kind of “ thing in itself ”. Not true. The judicial system is open to the public and actively participates in the process of development and improvement of the state. There has never been a case when the judges are completely confined to their direct activities - we have always analyzed the current situation and conveyed to our citizens, and to the legislator, and to the executive branch, our collegiate opinion, our ideas. This is as natural as it is necessary, because the court proceedings provide an opportunity to see many of the pressing problems of society, to analyze them and draw conclusions about what is needed to solve them.

 

- The Council of Judges, as a spokesman for the positions of the judicial community, has always been a platform for discussions and for the development of optimal legislative and managerial decisions.

 

- As far as we understand, you are against generalizations? When with the example of one or several unjust decisions, they label the whole judicial system.

 

- Of course. It is possible and necessary to criticize unjust judicial decisions, which, of course, existe. Evidence of this is a significant number of judicial acts, which are repealed by higher courts. But to criticize, and so harshly, the entire judicial system is wrong, unfair and dangerous. Most judges are honest, decent, and qualified people.

 

- I believe that both the society and the state should look at the situation sensibly and set real tasks for each other. It is possible, of course, to demand the crystalline purity of the judiciary, when the society is so corrupt, but in our conditions it is impossible. There were, there are, and there will be unworthy people in the ranks of judges, but it is necessary to notice that the judicial system is consistently getting rid of them. 

 

- It seems to me that such an attitude towards the court is a symptom of the unfavorable situation not of the judicial system, but of the whole society. The easiest way is to redirect the flow of aggression arising in society to the court. The easiest way is to specify it as the main responsible of all our troubles. But it is very dangerous, because the court is one of the pillars of the state. 

 

- In order to destroy the stability and integrity of the state, it is enough to shake one of its three pillars - Presidential power, legislative or judicial power. We have already experienced this several times, but, unfortunately, history teaches us nothing. In recent years, the Soviet government also sounded plentiful criticism of the courts. And we all know how it ended. The state fell apart. 

 

- Taking in consideration publications in the media, the society really does not trust the court. But opinion polls show that the degree of distrust of the court is greatly exaggerated. In any case, the majority of citizens who have personal experience of interacting with the court trust the judicial system. 

 

- And the statistics confirms the same. In criminal cases, no more than 15% of decisions are appealed, and in civil cases - 5%. Where is the distrust here? On the contrary, it turns out that the overwhelming number of citizens consider court decisions in their cases to be fair or, at a minimum, acceptable. 

 

- Yuri Ivanovich! Judicial reform in Russia lasts 20 years, and the end is not yet visible. This is the longest of all our reforms. What is the probability that it will ever be completed?

 

- Judicial reform was completed by the year 2000. This was confirmed by the V All-Russian Congress of Judges, which was held in 2000. Speaking at this congress, President V. Putin said that the judicial reform was completed in terms of the main basic parameters. The concept of judicial reform has been implemented, and there is no reason to continue a radical breakdown of the system. If you break all the time, then nothing sensible can be built. No system can withstand reform for decades. Endless reform is nonsense. The essence of any reform is to change the basic parameters, to create new mechanisms, and then to work quietly according to the new rules.

 

- Our further task is to improve and adjust the mechanism, finish what is unfinished and go in the direction in which we have been going all these years. And to repel the attacks of those who want to push us out of this path, which in itself is very difficult. We must distinguish between reform and counter-reform, and respond accordingly. 

 

- Almost every reform stumbles upon opposition, and judicial reform is not an exception. A strong independent court is not needed to everyone.

 

- We again return to the issue of the independence of judges.

 

- Because without this there is no court. And because it is the main target for those who are more comfortable to have an obedient and controlled court, which they want to influence.

 

- The most striking thing is that they openly speak about the need to subordinate the court to one or another structure, without hesitation. And it is almost presented as a huge democratic achievement.

 

- I remember, German Oscarovich Gref at the beginning of the 2000s at one of the international symposiums outlined his vision of the judicial system. He said that court decisions should come into force only after approval by the public council. The audience was confused. How?! Decisions of the courts should be approved by someone?

 

- But no matter how amazing such statements are for international community, the idea is still alive. And it’s not for nothing that we addressed the Chairman of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation for clarification. We really do not understand how public control can be exercised over the judicial acts that have entered into force. Not only the essence, but also the procedure of this action is incomprehensible, and without strict adherence to procedural norms, no court can administer justice. In addition, according to the constitutional norm, judges are subject only to the Constitution and federal law, and not the requirements of the public. And so everywhere, in all legal states.

 

- If they decide to subordinate the courts to individual members of the public, then it is logical to eliminate the court as an “extra link”, and let the public pass sentences. Actually, such decisions are now made by some public structures. 

 

- You said that the concept of judicial reform is implemented. But there are very significant provisions of the Concept, the implementation of which has not even begun. For example, the concept embodies the creation of administrative justice.

 

- Not only the Concept, but also the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The newly elected President of Russia said that administrative courts are needed. But, apparently, not everyone agrees with him. So, as you can see, the counter reform continues. Apparently, the administrative court can seriously hinder someone. In addition, in recent years we have seen opposition between jurisdictions, although the Constitution clearly states that administrative courts must exist in the system of courts of general jurisdiction. 

 

- What do you think, does the Council of Judges need to be reformed? This is now also often repeated.

 

- I suppose not. But I know that some members of the judicial community do not like that the Council of Judges pays great attention to the financing of courts. As a rule, these critics did not see with their own eyes what happened to the judicial system in the mid-1990s, when electricity, heating, and telephones were turned off for non-payment in the courts. That's what finance is.

 

- If we didn’t pay such attention to financial issues, the situation could well have been repeated. And there were relapses. For example, when the Ministry of Finance sequestered the budget of the judicial system, although by law it had no right to do this without the consent of the Council of Judges. And the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had to appeal to the Constitutional Court to cancel the decision of the Ministry of Finance. But despite the fact that the Constitutional Court adopted the Decree on the unconstitutionality of the decision of the Ministry of Finance, the Minister of Finance refused to restore the budget of the judicial system. Then the Council of Judges appealed to the Prosecutor General with the requirement to bring the Minister of Finance to criminal responsibility for non-execution of the decision of the Constitutional Court and for arbitrariness. 

 

- I would like to remind some members of the judicial community that compared to the mid-1990s, by the middle of 2005, the budget of the judicial system increased by 20 times. Now, of course, a different situation.

 

- And as for composition of the Council of Judges, should the membership in it be adjusted?

 

- The Council of Judges is unique in the sense that it represents all jurisdictions - constitutional, courts of general jurisdiction, arbitration, and magistrates. And all levels of courts and judges - from the judges of the district court to the chairmen of the supreme courts of the republics. Such representation allows to adequately assess the state of the judicial system and its problems.

 

- You do not agree that the Council of Judges has too many chairmen of the courts?

 

- I am ready to confirm that their number has grown. In the first Council there were 43% of Chairmen, 29% of which were the chairmen of the regional courts. Now we have 75% chairmen of the courts. Why? The chairmen of the regional courts have more opportunities to influence the policy than the judge of the district court. The Council is a working body that sets specific goals and makes efforts (and considerable ones) to achieve them. We can say that we enhance the effectiveness of the work of the Council of Judges by adding the influence of each of its members. In addition, all the chairmen of the regional and equal courts of general jurisdiction passed through all steps of the judicial career - from the lowest court to the chairman of the regional court. And they know problems of courts of all levels very well. Therefore, the tendency to increase the number of court presidents in the Council is justified.

 

- There is another point - the increase in the number of chairmen is explained by the fact that as the authority of the Council of Judges increases, more and more chairmen have tried to get there.

 

- I'm not talking about the fact that the Council of Judges is an elected body. We did not call this or that judge to the Council and told him to do something. He was elected at a conference of judges, which means that he is so respected that he is ready to entrust him to represent the interests of the judges of the entire district. A very important point - we have no "staff". Someone said that the Council of Judges should represent "those who are in the field." That is, as I understood this expression, those who consider cases. So all the members of the Council not only represent "those who are in the field," but they themselves also work in the same field. Each and every member of the Council has procedural powers, all consider cases ranging from a justice of the peace to the President of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

 

- That is, nothing needs to be changed in the work and in the formation of the Council of Judges; let everything remain as it is?

 

- Why? We are changing and developing. But I am convinced that the bodies of the judicial community should be strengthened, not destroyed. The Council of Judges must be strengthened, its powers extended in the field of personnel policy, and in the field of control over the Judicial Department.

                                                                 

- Now there has been a certain bias towards strengthening the administrative influence of the chairmen of the courts. And, probably, it would be correct to transfer any powers of the chairmen of the courts to the councils of judges.

 

- To date, there are two concepts of court management. According to the first, the chairman of the court is the manager who is responsible for everything that happens in the court. According to the second, the chairman is the first among equals. And the head of the court and the judge, albeit the first among his colleagues, have completely different functions.

 

- Do you think that the chairman should be the first among equals?

 

- Yes. And if the state chooses such a concept, the question immediately arises: who will lead the court apparatus? Who will be responsible for the timing of cases, for their movement, for the distribution of vacations, for all current activities? Organizing basis must existe. And if the work of the court as an institution is not organized by the chairman, then it means that someone else should deal with this. You can assign these responsibilities to the Judicial Department, but then it is likely that the department will rise above the courts, will become a kind of ministry of the courts. To avoid this, it will be necessary to strengthen the councils of judges and to transfer to them additional powers to control the department.

 

- Another solution to the issue is to transfer managerial functions to the chief of staff. In the USA, for example, the President of the court is the first among equals, and the senior clerk, who, by the way, has very large powers and a salary equal to the judge’s salary, leads the court. But he is also under control, the central court office is above him, and the conference is over the central office, that is, a balanced system of checks, balances and mutual control is built.

 

- Ideally, the president of the court should not be a manager. His business is to administer justice. We have a different way. What will happen next - life will show.

 

- What are the immediate plans of the Council of Judges?

 

- Hold the congress. It is already clear that it will be difficult. We have to elect a new body of the judicial community - the examination committee. If before the congress, a law on disciplinary boards is adopted, which are going to divide the functions of appointing judges and considering disciplinary offenses between qualifying and disciplinary boards, we will elect members of the disciplinary boards.

 

- The election procedure is now complex, multistage, and it will take a very long time. In order for the congress to take place at a normal pace, constructively and calmly, it is necessary to prepare for the elections, to nominate candidates in advance.

 

- As always, we will summarize the past four years, we will define the perspective.

 

- New code judicial ethics will be adopted. On the pages of our magazine, the draft of the new code has been discussed repeatedly, and many experts evaluated it positively primarily because it would remove many restrictions from the judges when communicating with the outside world and, above all, with the media. If earlier court decisions were mainly commented by lawyers who, as you said, are often biased and aggressive, now the judges themselves will be able to explain to the press the essence of their decisions, what should have a positive impact on the authority of the judiciary. 

 

- Yes, journalists participated in the meetings of the ethics commission that drafted the code, and the result of their interaction with the members of the Judicial Council was appreciated by all. The commission took into account many proposals of the Union of Journalists. In May, we plan to discuss the final version of the Code, to then recommend to the congress of judges to adopt it. But now it is clear that this will be a good document. 

 

- Yuri Ivanovich, the last question about the past and the present. What is common between the very first composition of the Council of Judges and the current one? How much has the face of the Council of Judges changed in 20 years?

 

- The difference is that the first composition of the Council was much more emotional. I have already said that at our meetings there was a lot of controversy, shouting and noise. Now this is not there, because all questions are tentatively discussed in the commissions, in the Judicial Department, and not only the judges, but also experts in various fields. Therefore, questions are brought to the Council’s meetings already deeply worked out, respectively, and there are fewer disputes, and discussions, when they occur, are less passionate. 

 

- And the general thing is that in the very first years of the Council’s existence, and now we remain like-minded. We have common values, common goals and, basically, a common view on how the judicial system should develop. We can argue about particulars, about the details, but on the whole, we are looking in one direction and are united in matters of principle.

 

- Thank you very much!

Published in the periodical “The Judge”, April 2012 

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